Tag Archives: United States Senate

Senators Admit Congress Really Sucked In 2013

Joint Session of Congress

The Huffington Post

[...]

Below are the full reactions of senators, lightly edited for clarity:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)

“That’s a good question. We were not attacked, uh, to the extent that we were on 9/11.

“We showed a level of dysfunction that has seldom been reached. Maybe the only other time was before the union dissolved. The good things are that it could have been worse. The final story on 2013 for me is it could have been worse.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)

“What good happened? A lot of the things Obama wanted to get done didn’t get done, like he wanted to avoid sequestration, which would have put one and two-tenths trillion [dollars] back into spending.

“That’s very positive. We got 17.2 trillion in debt, and you don’t want to add another one trillion and two-tenths to it.”

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)

“Well, the government isn’t completely closed, is it? What good happened this year? I only have three years left, that’s what happened that’s good.”

(Why was it so bad?) “That’s all about leadership. If you have good leadership, you have good progress. If you don’t, you don’t. And that’s not a partisan statement — that’s both sides.”

Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.)

“Oh, man. That’s the toughest question I’ve had all year.

“It is surprisingly hard. This is the most frustrating year of any of my years in the Congress — House or Senate — because so few major issues went addressed, starting with the fiscal situation, and then bumping along through all the crises and so forth. What good happened this year? The best thing that happened this year is that we finally got word late last night [Dec. 19] that we’re going to be done. I think we all believe that it can’t get worse than this year, so maybe next year will be better.”

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)

“That’s a really, uh … you know, look, from my perspective, not a great deal. I mean our foreign policy, our credibility around the world is continuing to shatter. Look at Syria. I can’t think of a lot of good, I really cannot. I have to tell you, this year in many ways for me has been one of the most productive. But as I leave here and look at just overall what’s actually happened, it’s not been a good year for the United States, so it’s hard for me to think of much. I’m sorry. I’m usually very upbeat and optimistic. I’m sorry.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), walking with Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.)

Rubio: “What good happened this year? Well, I’ll get back to you.”
Casey: “We got a budget bill!”
Rubio, yelling as elevator doors close: “We’re still America — that’s what’s good!”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)

“We finally got a semblance of a budget. We had the student loans — try to get some stability to that, lower interest rates. And we were able to drive both sides further apart. I don’t know if that’s good, but that’s what happened. That’s facts.

“With [Republican Sen.] Susan Collins, we were able to put a bipartisan group together. We got the governors caucus started, which is really bipartisan, so we’ve got to see if we can carry that and hopefully get a little better direction to get things accomplished. It’s gonna happen if you have relationships, so you have to work on that.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)

“We elevated the stories of survivors of sexual assault to make it a national debate and make sure victims’ voices are heard. It was one of my highest priorities.

“I have lots of personal successes, but those are all for [sons] Theo and Henry. I think that’s it.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), walking with Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)

Whitehouse: “We cleared the filibuster away from nominees …”
Wicker: “We were not attacked by foreign governments.”
Whitehouse: “The economy continued to improve.”

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.)

“There are a lot of good things. You know, we’re all blessed. This country’s blessed. We’re still standing. There’s a lot of things where people said the sky is falling, but it hasn’t fell.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)

“What good happened this year? [Chuckle, pause, asks if that means with his family or the Senate.] A good report from the president’s review committee on the NSA.”

Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.)

“Give Lizzie, my press secretary, a call, and we can set something up.”

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.)

“My son did great in soccer and cross country. When you said good, I immediately thought of home, not Washington, D.C.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)

“You know I think, uh, I’m having trouble trying to come up with something good. I think it’s good that we have exposed the surveillance of Americans without a warrant, and we’re going to try to do something about it. It seems like there’s some consensus in that direction.”

[It's pointed out that his example is actually rather negative.] “I tried to turn it into a positive. You know, really, we abandoned the sequester caps, and really, I go home disappointed with the year.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)

“I think that the budget thing was good. I think that will avert another shutdown. I can’t think of a hell of a lot of things besides that, to be honest with you. The observers say it’s the least productive Congress in history, and I don’t disagree with that. We did some good stuff on that defense bill. Did some good stuff on that. I’m digging for the pony here.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.)

Murphy: “The Red Sox won the World Series.”
Booker: “That’s painful. That’s bad!”
Murphy: “Cory Booker got elected to the United States Senate.”

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.)

“What good? [Chuckle] Well, you really threw me for a loop. Oh, God. We did pass some bills — the WRDA [Water Resources Development Act] bill. There’s a whole series of bills that people worked on — the compounding [pharmacies] bill — they worked pretty hard on. These are bills that did not make the front page or even the first five pages, but they’ve made a big impact to the folks that really care about them. In fact, I even have a list of eight or nine of them, but they really haven’t attracted any attention. On those bills — they were bipartisan — we worked hard, mostly on the HELP [Health, Education, Labor and Pensions] Committee.

“You know, everybody talks, ‘Where’s the farm bill? Why didn’t we get all of the high-profile stuff?’ — and then turning the Senate into the House, which is a bad thing, and our response. Everybody focuses on that. But I think there’s a reservoir of commitment here, on tax reform, on the tax extender package, and other things that really count. Foreign policy is a big one. I just think you have to understand that there are two very different opinions and philosophies here on the part of Republicans and Democrats, but we can occasionally build a bridge. And we’ll keep doing it in spite of 2014, which happens to be an even-numbered year, and you know what happens then.”

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)

“What good happened this year? Well, I think a lot of Senate relationships were strained by what happened late in the year, but I think they’re going to survive. In the Senate, those relationships and friendships matter because you only have 99 colleagues. And, uh, uh, most of the good things that happened for me were with my family and friends, and while people had their challenges generally, this was a good year for my family and for most of the people I know.”

Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.)

“I had a lot of good experiences with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, in getting amendments, working together on amendments and bills, and getting them passed by the Senate. I think the Senate took on a lot of tough issues. If you look at what the Senate passed, it was a number of big issues, from budget to immigration, and gun control was up, and I think the list goes on and on.”

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.)

“I think we’re getting close on the farm bill. Obviously passing a budget. I think ENDA [Employment Non-Discrimination Act] was a good outcome, immigration reform. I think as we focus on all the negative, there were some pretty amazing things. I don’t think anyone felt we were going to do comprehensive immigration reform. ENDA had been hanging around for a long time. And I think the budget, as I understand, is the first time since 1986 that a divided Congress has produced a budget. I tend to look at the good side of things. There was plenty bad, though.”

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska)

“We passed a budget for the first time in four years. … That’s not a bad thing. We got a defense authorization. A lot of appointments done. The economy, I think the economy, we saw the report yesterday — 4.1 percent GDP — better than people expected. Economy’s better, retail sales are up, consumer confidence is up, and deficit is down. That’s good news.”

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine)

“Number one, getting the first budget in four years. And I don’t know if you were aware, but I just learned this is the first budget out of a divided Congress, with the House [under a] different [party], since 1986. I think that’s significant. It wasn’t the most picturesque process in the world, but it was done though bipartisan negotiation. That’s a big deal. That’s a very big deal. Getting the defense bill done, I feel positive. We had some good bipartisan work on immigration. We had some good bipartisan work on student loans. So there were some bright spots. Not a very productive year — I’m not going to argue that.

“I think this whole business with the rules, we need to have some continued discussions. It’s trying to find the right balance between respecting minority rights and not facilitating obstruction.”

[He's asked whether he's still glad he ran for the Senate last year.] “Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. You’re dealing with public policy at the highest level, and for a person like myself who’s curious, likes public policy and likes to try to fix things, it’s a great place to be. I’ve had some very frustrating moments. The shutdown, the vote on [gun] background checks was a downer, but by and large, I feel pretty good.”

Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.)

“I think a number of things. We’re right on the verge of getting the farm bill done, we’re piecing that together. We got the WRDA [Water Resources Development Act] bill done. So really a lot of things have gotten done when you take away the budget issues. That’s really where we, you know, where we have a problem agreeing — in the amount of money we’re going to spend in the future and increase taxes, increase revenue to get those dollars. That’s really where the concern is at.

“I’d like to have seen a lot more things voted on. I don’t have any problems at all casting votes. I think the amendment process needs to be fixed, [so] members can offer amendments. That’s how you avoid what happened with the military pay issue that we’ve got, how things like that are allowed to go forward. That doesn’t happen if everybody’s consulted.”

1 Comment

Filed under United States Congress

Wall Street Journal Op-Ed Bemoans The End Of White Rule In The United States

Joseph Epstein – (Provocateur)

Shocked…but what did I expect from a Rupert Murdock publication, Kumbaya?  

Think Progress

There are a lot of problems in Washington, D.C these days, but not many solutions to them. Inefficiency, an allergy to cooperation, and stiff resistance to pragmatism have all ground the federal government to a stand-still. But one op-ed contributor to the Wall Street Journal knows what the real problem is: not enough rich, white men.

In Saturday’s paper and online, author Joseph Epstein mourns the collapse of what he describes as the “genuine ruling class, drawn from what came to be known as the WASP establishment,” (WASP, the commonly-held acronym for White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant). Instead, he argues, we are living in a meritocracy, governed not by an elite subset of the uppermost crust of society but rather by a group of people who overcame some kind of adversity and achieved success thanks to their own merits, not based on what family they were born into. This, according to Epstein, is a tragedy.

Epstein’s embrace of white privilege (or is it power?) is almost too transparent, resembling something closer to satire than to outright racism. And yet he gives no reason to believe that he isn’t completely serious when he argues that modern day “corruption, scandal and incompetence” are hallmarks exclusive to this new era of non-white rule. Or when he memorializes the virtues of keeping those not born into the “WASPocracy” away from the halls of power. Or when he faults the leadership of the country’s top colleges for its role in ending white rule by “lessening the number of legacies automatically admitted, and using racial preferences to encourage the enrollment of blacks.”

Instead, Epstein argues, we should return to an era of WASP rule. Why? Because rich, white men born into rich, white christian families would never lead the country astray:

A financier I know who grew up under the WASP standard not long ago told me that he thought that the subprime real estate collapse and the continuing hedge-fund scandals have been brought on directly by men and women who are little more than “greedy pigs” (his words) without a shred of character or concern for their clients or country. Naturally, he added, they all have master’s degrees from the putatively best business schools in the nation.

Thus far in their history, meritocrats, those earnest good students, appear to be about little more than getting on, getting ahead and (above all) getting their own. The WASP leadership, for all that may be said in criticism of it, was better than that.

Epstein’s contempt for minorities — namely, that they don’t belong anywhere near positions of authority — isn’t reserved simply for race. Back in the 1970s, Epstein penned a story for Harper’s Magazine in which he expressed his desire to “wish homosexuality off the face of this earth.” He added, of his four sons, “nothing they could ever do would make me sadder than if any of them were to become homosexual.” Those comments led to sit-ins and protests outside of Harper’s offices, and Epstein has never apologized (and in fact dismissed his critics, some 30 years later, as simply incapable of understanding his own “textured thought”).

Perhaps that explains why Epstein reserves so little space (50 of his 2200+ word essay) to the shortcomings of WASP rule: he simply doesn’t care that many of the leaders from his idyllic “WASPocracy” looked the other way on issues of racism, homophobia, poverty and inequality when they were in power.

And while the U.S. Senate — historically the wealthier and less diverse of the two chambers — may not be sufficiently white for Epstein’s liking (only 95 percent of U.S. Senators are caucasian), they still do a very good job of tending to the needs of their fellow rich people instead of the needs of middle class and low-income families.

7 Comments

Filed under Racism, Wall Street Journal

Evil Cheney family turns sloppy: What is this “feelings” garbage?!

Evil Cheney family turns sloppy: What is this

Dick Cheney confers with daughters, Mary, left, and Elizabeth, at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, July 31, 2000. (Credit: AP/Ed Reinke)

The Cheneys…the saga continues.

Salon

As Dick Cheney’s daughters fight over marriage equality, has this cynical family lost its refined ruthlessness?

You’d have expected more from a Cheney political operation. This family has run quite a few cynical campaigns before and enjoys winning; there’s no time to get caught up in any feelings crap. This is because they are an evil family.

When Liz Cheney, perhaps the most cynical of them all, decided to run for Wyoming’s Senate race, you’d have thought there’d be a family meeting beforehand that went like this.

Liz: Mary, I am going to denounce your same-sex marriage, to win a Republican primary.

Mary: Of course you are, Sister. That is the only way to win a Republican primary in Wyoming, where you brilliantly are pretending to live. I would consider you weak if you didn’t.

Dick: The Cheney family must not be weak.

Lynne: Destroy everything, we must.

Liz: Mwah! War!

[Whole family guzzles deer blood from flaming goblets.]

But now a totally unexpected thing and fun has emerged: Mary Cheney is publicly offended by her sister taking a stand against marriage equality.

The relationship “has deteriorated so much that the two sisters have not spoken since the summer,” the New York Times writes, ”and the quarrel threatens to get in the way of something former Vice President Dick Cheney desperately wants — a United States Senate seat for Liz.”

On Fox News Sunday yesterday, Liz Cheney described same-sex marriage as “just an area where [Mary and I] disagree.” Rather than just sitting there and taking it, as even a Cheney family in-law would be expected to, Mary’s wife, Heather Poe, wrote this up on her Facebook page:

I was watching my sister-in-law on Fox News Sunday (yes Liz, in fifteen states and the District of Columbia you are my sister-in-law) and was very disappointed to hear her say “I do believe in the traditional definition of marriage.”

Liz has been a guest in our home, has spent time and shared holidays with our children, and when Mary and I got married in 2012 – she didn’t hesitate to tell us how happy she was for us.

To have her now say she doesn’t support our right to marry is offensive to say the least

I can’t help but wonder how Liz would feel if as she moved from state to state, she discovered that her family was protected in one but not the other.

I always thought freedom meant freedom for EVERYONE.

1 Comment

Filed under The Cheneys

Here Comes Corey: Corey Booker To Be Sworn In Today

cory booker swearing in

Newark Mayor Cory Booker talks to supporters during an election night victory party after winning a special election for the U.S. Senate, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) | AP

I watched Rachel Maddow’s interview with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid last night and one of the take-aways from that interview was Senator Reid’s enthusiasm over the prospect of having Senator-Elect Cory Booker on his team.

The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON (AP) — Cory Booker has come to Washington.

The former Newark mayor will be sworn in as a U.S. senator at noon Thursday. Vice President Joe Biden will swear in the 44-year-old former Newark mayor in the Old Senate Chamber.

Booker will be joined by a number of family members, including his mother and his brother, Cary. His father died earlier this month.

It’s unclear what Booker’s committee assignments will be.

Booker submitted his resignation as mayor on Wednesday. It was effective at midnight.

He served as Newark mayor for seven years.

2 Comments

Filed under Corey Booker (D-NJ), Sen. Harry Reid

The GOP’s little rule change they hoped you wouldn’t notice

This is just one example of how House Republicans rig the system to their benefit…

Rep. Chris Van Hollen(D-MD)

Late in the evening on September 30, 2013, the House Rules Committee Republicans changed the Rules of the House so that the ONLY Member allowed to call up the Senate’s clean CR for a vote was Majority Leader Eric Cantor or his designee — all but guaranteeing the government would shut down a few hours later and would stay shut down.

Previously, any Member would have had the right to bring the CR up for a vote. Democracy has been suspended in the House of Representatives.

1 Comment

Filed under 113th Congress

Maddow Tears Apart Ted Cruz for Praising ‘Racist’ Jesse Helms

Mediaite

Senator Ted Cruz raised more than a few eyebrows when he said the U.S. Senate could use “a hundred more like Jesse Helms” because Helms was known for harboring some pretty racist views. Rachel Maddow took the opportunity to remind viewers of those views to show exactly how crazy Cruz’s comments really were.

Maddow briefly went through the history of African-Americans serving in the U.S. Senate, and recounted the story of how black senator Carol Moseley-Braun was taunted by Helms once in a Senate elevator when he was singing “Dixie,” just to try and make her cry.  Maddow continued showing viewers exactly just how much Helms exploited racial division in his political career, even to the point where he opposed integration.

Which then led, of course, to Maddow showing the clip of Ted Cruz.

Maddow could barely contain how unbelievably stunned and just a little pissed off she was at Cruz suggesting that the Senate could use a hundred more people like a man who was whistling Dixie just to make his black colleague cry.

Watch the video below, via MSNBC (via You Tube):

5 Comments

Filed under Rachel Maddow, Sen. Ted Cruz

Forgetting the relevant Katrina detail, eight years later

President Obama was NOT the president during Hurricane Katrina…

The Maddow Blog

How much do Louisiana Republicans dislike President Obama? Many of them blame him for the government’s tragic response to Hurricane Katrina — which struck the state more [than] three years before Obama took office.

The latest survey from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling, provided exclusively to TPM, showed an eye-popping divide among Republicans in the Bayou State when it comes to accountability for the government’s post-Katrina blunders.

Twenty-eight percent said they think former President George W. Bush, who was in office at the time, was more responsible for the poor federal response while 29 percent said Obama, who was still a freshman U.S. Senator when the storm battered the Gulf Coast in 2005, was more responsible. Nearly half of Louisiana Republicans — 44 percent — said they aren’t sure who to blame.

I realize that 2005 was a while ago, and among Republicans there’s some disagreement about the efficacy of George W. Bush’s handling of the crisis, but the PPP results really don’t make any sense.

So what explains this? There are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, it’s possible that after several years in which the political world described all sorts of different developments as “Obama’s Katrina,” a lot of folks may have gotten confused and started to connect the words “Obama” and “Katrina” in a mistaken way.

Second, let’s not underestimate the scope of reflexive GOP opposition to the president, in Louisiana and elsewhere, and the way in which that leads Republican to blame Obama for just about anything. More Louisiana Republicans blame Obama than Bush for the response to Katrina, which obviously don’t make sense, but I imagine if PPP asked, a non-trivial number of Louisiana Republicans would also blame the president for 9/11, Watergate, the Hindenburg disaster, the 1919 White Sox, and the U.S. Civil War.

In other words, Louisiana Republicans may say they blame Obama for the response to Katrina, but what they’re really saying is they just hate the president and blame him reflexively for everything.

5 Comments

Filed under Hurricane Katrina

BREAKING: Senate Passes Historic Immigration Reform

Think Progress

On Thursday afternoon, an immigration reform bill that would affect millions of undocumented immigrants was approved by a final vote of 68 to 32 in the Senate. The bill puts up to 11 million undocumented immigrants on a pathway to citizenship and enforces tough border security measures. Vice President Joe Biden presided over the historic vote, in which all the senators were required to vote from their desks. The Senate gallery was packed with exuberant DREAMers, undocumented youths who were brought to the U.S. by their parents. The gallery chanted “Yes we can” after the bill was officially passed.

After the cloture vote occurred early Thursday afternoon, politicians on both sides of the aisle spoke emotionally about the need to pass the bill.

House Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) teared up as he spoke of his wife’s father, who immigrated from Russia, and reflected on the letters sent to him by undocumented individuals who were brought to the U.S. as children and raised in fear of deportation. He compared present-day immigrants to all the previous waves of immigrants, notably lauding the achievements that these new Americans could contribute:

It recognizes that today’s immigrants came for the very same reason as generations before them– to achieve a dream we take for granted, the right to live in the land of the free.

Across the aisle, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) invoked his immigrant parents as he argued passionately that immigration reform will help future generations to fulfill their dreams:

Here, immigrants will give their children the life they once wanted for themselves. Here generations of unfulfilled dreams will finally come to pass.Even with all our challenges, we remain the shining city on the hill. We are still the hope of the world. And in the end, that is why I support this reform. Yes, I believe in immigrants, but I believe in America even more.

The bill now faces an uphill battle in the House, where many Republican congressmen have vowed their opposition to any kind of an immigration deal that includes a pathway to citizenship. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has promised that he would not advance a reform bill without a majority agreement by House Republicans.

 

6 Comments

Filed under Immigration Reform

Massachusetts Special Election Results: Ed Markey Beats Gabriel Gomez

massachusetts special election results

Well, there’s some good news today after all…

The Huffington Post

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) defeated Republican businessman Gabriel Gomez in the Massachusetts special election, projects The Associated Press.

The result has been predictable, as Markey has had a solid lead in the polls since winning the April 30 primary and Gomez has struggled to gain much traction in the traditionally Democratic state. Markey embraced national Democrats including President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton, while Gomez got little help from national Republicans, who are unpopular in the state.

“Thank you Massachusetts!” tweeted Markey. “I am deeply honored for the opportunity to serve you in the United States Senate.”

The election featured low turnout, due to the unusual timing of in late June and the fact that the state is going through a heat wave.

Republicans had hoped that Gomez would replicate Scott Brown’s upset in 2010; however, Gomez faced a much more determined Democratic party and a less favorable national climate.

The ascension of Sen. John Kerry to the position of Secretary of State created the vacancy, which has been temporarily filled by the appointment of Sen. Mo Cowan (D-Mass.).

Click here for full returns.

2 Comments

Filed under Ed Markey

53 Senators Blew Off Briefing On Secret NSA Program Because They Wanted to Go Home

congress-closed

This is not the House we’re talking about, these are our “prestigious” and influential United States Senators who apparently have better things to do than get briefed on something as important as the NSA program.  Go figure…

PoliticusUSA

Fifty three senators skipped Friday’s briefing on the secret NSA data mining program, because they wanted to go home early for Father’s Day weekend.

According to The Hill:

The Senate held its last vote of the week a little after noon on Thursday, and many lawmakers were eager to take advantage of the short day and head back to their home states for Father’s Day weekend.

Only 47 of 100 senators attended the 2:30 briefing, leaving dozens of chairs in the secure meeting room empty as Clapper, Alexander and other senior officials told lawmakers about classified programs to monitor millions of telephone calls and broad swaths of Internet activity. The room on the lower level of the Capitol Visitor Center is large enough to fit the entire Senate membership, according to a Senate aide.

The problem is that these same senators who skipped the briefing are in charge of overseeing the program.  When congress doesn’t take its oversight duties seriously, or even worse, abusing their powers to chase empty scandals, the freedoms of every American are at risk.

It doesn’t matter how you feel about the Patriot Act and surveillance programs. This is about 53 members of the Senate who refused to stay at work, and do their jobs.

The problem of members not attending briefings is a rampant epidemic. Members of congress constantly blow off important briefings, and instead rely on special interest groups to tell them how to vote. This is how the NRA was able to stop wildly popular background checks legislation. Some members of congress vote how they are told to, because they fear that special interest groups will work against them in the next reelection campaign if they don’t.

The next time a member of congress claims that they didn’t know about something, the first question asked should be, “Did you attend the briefing?” The odds are pretty good that they didn’t.

The fact of the matter is that a majority of the Senate doesn’t care about secret domestic spying. Most of them either voted for or to reauthorize the Patriot Act.

The bigger story is that our congress is more interested in going home than doing the people’s business. The main reason why our legislative process is broken is because the people we are sending to the House and Senate don’t care enough to do their jobs.

There are millions of dads who will be working this Father’s Day. They don’t have the luxury of blowing off work, like 53 members of the United States Senate.

 

3 Comments

Filed under United States Senate